November 21. 2013 10:00AM - Last modified: November 21. 2013 10:50AM

National award honors MSOE’s social media community

  
After three years of strategic development and expansion, the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE’s) Bridge Social Community has been recognized with a national award for its innovative approach to connecting prospective students and staff on campus.

 

The Forrester Groundswell Award recently honored the social networking community for the difference it has made in “bridging” MSOE’s population of prospective students with its academic and admissions professionals.

Bridge was created through a collaborative effort between MSOE and Milwaukee-based social business agency 7Summits beginning in spring of 2010.

“MSOE was looking to go into the social media realm, and we were looking for somebody to partner with because on campus we were a bit naïve as far as what our different options would be,” said Dana Grennier, director of digital marketing for MSOE.

MSOE and 7Summits began working together through brainstorming sessions to examine “the whole lifecycle of someone coming to MSOE” and “what operational things (7Summits) could do to really make a difference” in the admissions process, said Bill O’Neil, SVP and creative director at 7Summits.

Among 40 ideas that 7Summits presented to MSOE, with concepts ranging from how to better manage Facebook pages to creating a private admissions community, MSOE forged ahead in building Bridge as well as revamping the admissions segment of the university’s website.

The original Bridge Social Community, dubbed Bridge 1.0, was launched in October of 2010, providing prospective students a revolutionary portal into academic and student life at MSOE. Through Bridge 1.0, structured much like Facebook but exclusively for MSOE, prospective students could interact with their peers, reach out to MSOE admissions counselors with questions and concerns, and learn more about the culture and dynamics of the university.

According to Grennier, thanks to Bridge MSOE’s conversations with prospective students have largely shifted from reminders about deadlines and documents to discussions about whether MSOE is the right fit for students and the opportunities available to them.

“(We) really get to know them in a different way,” Grennier said.

The private social network has also enabled the university to be more accessible to prospective students 24 hours a day and has also begun to take care of itself. While MSOE admissions counselors initially managed the site, today prospective students have taken the initiative to reach out to one another and answer each other’s questions.

“We’ve had really solid incoming freshman who are already on friendly terms with each other,” Grennier said.

MSOE and 7Summits enhanced the university’s private social networking capabilities in August 2013 when they opened up another social portal, Hub, to spark interaction among current MSOE students, alumni, faculty, staff and community partners.

While current students can use Hub to communicate and network with peers and faculty, alumni can use the social outlet to strengthen their ties to the university and mentor students. Benefits for professors include the ability to create specific student groups and special interest groups to foster collaboration among students and professionals.

“For every audience, there’s a unique value proposition that social can really tap into,” O’Neil said.

The 2013 Forrester Groundswell Award, however, salutes the original Bridge 1.0, designed with prospective students in mind.

The competition pitted MSOE’s social network against about 150 other social projects across the country, some of them belonging to big-name brands like Pepsi and Purina.

Bridge was recognized in the Social Depth Marketing Category.

O’Neil believes Bridge was selected as a winner because of 7Summit and MSOE’s intention to create an experience that would be useful, likeable and quantifiable in terms of its success.

The admissions community helped MSOE achieve application goals nine months ahead of schedule and also increased the number of accepted students who submitted deposits from 30 percent to 38 percent.

“We had really quantified it on a lot of different dimensions that this is really what people are wanting (to really make) an impact for MSOE,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil and Grennier also credit the strong relationship between 7Summits and MSOE for their social media success.

“None of this would have happened without each person who has played a role (in) it in some form or fashion,” Grennier said. “It’s amazing that this was an idea on a whiteboard a few years ago, and now we’re being seen as an industry leader.”

Kip Kussman, community manager at MSOE, accepted the social media award on behalf of the university at a ceremony in Chicago earlier this month.

To learn more about Bridge and Hub, click here.

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